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Sleep APNEA 101: What CMV Drivers Must Know

How sleep apnea impacts the trucking industry.

Do you yawn often or feel drowsy when driving during daylight hours? Do you snore while sleeping? Do you have frequent headaches? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

OSA, the most common type of sleep apnea, is a serious medical condition. It happens when a person’s throat muscles relax during sleep, causing multiple pauses in breathing that can last for up to 10 seconds each. Left untreated, it can raise your risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease and even depression.


Who is at risk for OSA?

Being a CMV driver raises your risk for OSA. About one in three professional drivers have OSA, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You’re also at higher risk if you have:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 28 or more

  • A family history of OSA

  • A neck size of 17 inches or more (men) or 15 inches or more (women)

  • A small airway or small jaw

OSA is also more common in people age 50 and older.


What are the symptoms?

In addition to daytime sleepiness, loud snoring and witnessed pauses in breathing, symptoms include headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.


How does it affect my driving?

Because OSA causes fatigue, it raises the risk of drowsy driving, which causes about 100,000 crashes each year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to a medical study, truck drivers who don’t adhere to OSA treatment have a five times higher rate of preventable crashes than truck drivers without OSA.


Can I drive a CMV with OSA?

Yes! But to remain medically qualified for interstate travel and retain your Department of Transportation Medical Card, you must get your OSA treated. Once it’s successfully treated, you may regain your medically qualified-to-drive status.

Treatment for minor cases of OSA may include using a dental device (mouth guard) while sleeping. Treatment for moderate-to-severe OSA may include using a CPAP machine that helps you breathe during sleep, or using a CPAP alternative such as a surgical implant that monitors your breathing.


What should I do if I suspect I have OSA?

See your medical provider. Ask for a sleep study or other screening. If diagnosed, follow through with all of your provider’s treatment recommendations. By taking these actions, you’ll keep yourself — and others — safe on the roads.

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